Dayton police get $4.58 million grant to help with recruiting, payroll

City data says 2022 retirements, resignations were highest in years; grant is federal money, through the state

The Dayton Police Department has been awarded millions of dollars in state funding to help with recruiting and payroll costs at a time when officials say there is a significant staff shortage.

“There are fewer qualified applicants and many current officers are electing to leave the profession through retirement and resignation,” said Dayton police Major Paul Saunders, commander of the support services division.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine this week announced that the Dayton Police Department will receive $4.58 million from the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program.

The program, which is supported by state operating funds and some of Ohio’s federal rescue plan dollars, is supposed to help address violence, as well as increased crime that is due to officer retirements and resignations, according to state officials.

Dayton’s grant will be paid for entirely with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money. The state received more than $5.8 billion in ARPA funds.

The police department will use the grant funding to help restore staffing to pre-pandemic levels, Saunders said.

The money will help offset costs related to current and future police academy classes over the next two years, he said.

“There is a national shortage of police officers,” he said. “Many communities have reacted to this challenge by increasing overall compensation, which increases competition for the narrow field of qualified candidates.”

The Dayton Police Department plans to use the grant money to cover the hiring and payroll costs for 26 new cadets, as they become officers, for a two-year period.

DPD currently has a class of 20 police recruits who are scheduled to graduate in February 2023, Saunders said. New officers in Dayton start at $60,112 annually, according to the city’s recruiting website.

The Dayton Police Department presently has 347 sworn officers, which includes 25 recent graduates of the Dayton police academy, he said.

The police force normally has a goal of employing about 365 sworn personnel.

In January 2020, pre-pandemic, Dayton police had 355 sworn employees and 17 police recruits, says a grant application the police department submitted to the state.

But the department has struggled to maintain staffing levels for several years, and COVID-19 exacerbated the problem, the application states.

The department’s inability to staff all shifts, even with mandatory overtime, has hurt employee morale and public safety, the department said.

Sworn employee overtime was up more than 90% through the first half of this year (plus $1.2 million), said Melissa Wilson, Dayton’s deputy director of procurement, management and budget.

This was mainly due to mandatory staffing levels and higher leave usage, she said, but she noted that the fire department accounted for a large share of the increase.

The police force had 354 officers at the end of 2021, but nearly two dozen retired or resigned within the first five months of this year.

That was the most retirements and resignations in at least seven years, perhaps much longer, according to city data.

Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal earlier this year told the Dayton Daily News that police work is stressful and hectic, especially in urban areas like Dayton.

He said officers often can earn more money and respond to fewer calls, especially critical emergency calls, by joining departments in smaller cities and suburban communities.

Police have been more heavily scrutinized nationally since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota law enforcement, and some officers do not feel as supported as they once did and think the job has become more challenging, Afzal said.

The police department also proposes using a small amount of the grant funding to support enhanced recruitment efforts, including a marketing campaign aimed at increasing diversity among the police applicants.

The Dayton Police Department needs adequate staffing to allow officers to take part in community policing and focused patrols in hot spots identified through crime analysis and research, police said.

Proper staffing helps the department’s community-oriented, problem-solving approach to building and maintaining community relationships, officials said.

The police department says it can sustain the 26 police positions after the grant period expires.

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